With people “clamouring” to get scaffolding tickets, there is huge demand on SARNZ and industry training providers to provide appropriate training and qualifications.
“With the increasing need for skilled, trained scaffolders and riggers, the industry needs to develop its training programmes to ensure standards continue to improve and evolve,” says SARNZ chief executive Graham Burke.
This is particularly critical from a safety perspective as just about every task, from loading a truck to operating a forklift, getting to site and especially working at height to erect and dismantle the scaffold has an element of risk.
“Safety and training is something we guard jealously, and we’re not about to let those standards slip.”
One of Graham’s main tasks as the association’s new chief executive is to look at the industry’s current training model and how it might need to be adapted.
“We are looking at the range of training available in the marketplace and deciding which models best meet the needs of the industry moving forward. We have been well served by our training providers to date and it is critical the high quality of scaffolders and riggers being produced continues. Good training programs also help us to attract smart, motivated people to the industry. ”
Lifting training capacity is another key consideration but is highly challenging given the small size of the industry.
“Scaffolding and rigging is a fraction of the size of other trades, yet training providers require considerable infrastructure and equipment to deliver courses. It is one of the challenges we are working through with ITO (Skills) and training providers associated with the industry, as we look at a range of options moving forward.”
Some slight changes have recently been made to the current qualification, and Graham expects there could eventually be a small range of different training options, allowing people to choose the one that best meets their needs.
He says it takes up to two years for a person to have the necessary training and experience to work at the level of a competent elementary scaffolder.
“We would never undermine this fact by following a model similar to Australia where people go to polytech for a week and come out with a scaffold ticket. We are very aware of providing a safe working environment for our people.”
The rigging qualifications have also been reviewed and SARNZ is working to increase training capacity in this area as well.
“Riggers are currently unregulated so it is not compulsory for them to have a qualification despite it being a high risk industry. With the new health and safety legislation we believe it is likely to become compulsory to have a Certificate of Competence when the next tranche of regulations are launched next year. We are working with industry to resolve the issues around that, so we have the training capacity and quality framework ready to meet demand.”
Graham says there may be recognition of prior learning for existing riggers. However some may have to undertake extra training depending on their skills and experience to qualify.if compulsory qualifications are introduced.
SARNZ is working hard to encourage young people to enter the industry, he says.
“We will continue working with schools and training providers to get young people into scaffold companies for a taste of the industry, and hopefully continue into training. In the past we have had a high turnover of young people in the initial period after they join the industry, as many are put off after working for months as labourers in what is a tough, physical environment, before doing any formal training.”
By encouraging young recruits to attend courses covering safety, understanding the scaffolding process and what their future job will look like, manual handling, and how to tie knots, they build up some core skills, and basic qualifications that also make them a more useful employee.
“The idea is that if we give young people a taste while they are in their last year at secondary school or on a trade course, it should help to cut down some of this turnover and encourage employers to get them into formal training earlier.”
A more structured approach also gives young people an “easier and clearer” career path, showing them how they can work their way up, quite literally in the scaffolding industry.